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11:39 AM
David Hill
David Hill
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The Three Transformations of IT

IT is entering its third transformation as we learn to grapple with the explosion of data generated by the Internet of Things.

Sensors of one type or another are responsible for capturing information, ranging from those which measure component wear and predict failure on a train locomotive or car (artifact), to data that collects data on hurricanes (non-biological natural world), and to medical sensors on a person to monitor heart rate, temperature and so on. (biological natural world).

The Internet of things has a big impact on IT organizations and what they need to do with emerging technologies and platforms such as cloud computing. When we think of a compute cloud (say, for simplicity's sake, a private cloud), we tend to think of a transformation of a traditional data center. However, the traditional data center was designed for Transformation 1 (such as OLTP systems).

The data center was adapted to serve Transformation 2 (as businesses found accommodation with PCs). In addition, IT organizations may have been able to force-fit their own Web services into traditional data center environments. This is not perfect but, theoretically, most of the data is still under the control of IT.

That is changing. In dealing with BYOD where business and personal data commingle, IT finds that there is data "in the wild" that is outside the control of IT. One source of "data in the wild" problems are business units that opt for shadow IT outside the confines of official IT, such as SaaS applications, without considering the consequences. These problems have been harder for IT to tackle.

Add in the geographically dispersed and distributed collection of data that the Internet of things requires. In this case, the cloud has to be not merely a physical, single data center, but a world-wide virtual data center that encompasses everything, with the necessary scale and elasticity, including the ability to deliver IT as a service. Quite a challenge.

Mesabi Musings

The concept of IT causes a problem when we try to think about what is happening today with information, because we naturally think in terms of specific technology products and what is happening before our eyes rather than from a broader perspective. Other terms, such as "infosphere" (not the IBM product) have been coined to describe this complex situation, but they are not commonly recognized or accepted.

IT has been very adaptable to change over the years, and will continue to be so. Hopefully, having the Three Transformations of IT laid out will provide a context and reference point from which IT can put its thinking cap on and plan for the big picture, rather than donning blinders and focusing only on one immediate problem at a time.

David Hill is principal of Mesabi Group LLC, which focuses on helping organizations make complex IT infrastructure decisions simpler and easier to understand. He is the author of the book "Data Protection: Governance, Risk Management, and Compliance." View Full Bio
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